Walmart has resumed counting the number of shoppers entering its outposts as certain parts of the United States face a surge in COVID-19 cases.
In April, as the outbreak swept the country, the big-box chain started to limit customers allowed into its locations at a given time. It announced that it would not permit more than five guests for every 1,000 square feet, which is about 20% of a store’s capacity, or lower if mandated by local governments. Once the units are at capacity, workers let in people on a “1-out, 1-in” basis.
However, at some point amid the health crisis, Walmart had stopped monitoring the shoppers going in and out of stores.
“We know from months of metering data in our stores that the vast majority of the time our stores didn’t reach our self-imposed 20% metering capacity,” the company announced in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, we have resumed counting the number of people entering and leaving our stores.”
Walmart’s move to resume counting shoppers at stores comes as America contends with an alarming spike in new infections: According to data from researchers at John Hopkins University, more than 11.04 people in the U.S. have been sickened by COVID-19, and at least 246,200 deaths have been recorded. Many states have resorted to renewed restrictions on businesses and social gatherings, as well as enacted stricter mandates for face masks, in an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
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Over the past few months, the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer has instituted several health and safety precautions at its locations: It says its associates are cleaning high-traffic and high-touch areas like shopping carts and baskets. It has also installed plexiglass barriers at its pharmacies and register lanes, plus floor decals at both entrances and checkout lanes to encourage social distancing.
What’s more, as it prepares for a busy holiday season, Walmart revealed plans to break up its Black Friday sale to three events: The first, featuring toys, electronics and home goods, began online on Nov. 4 and in stores on Nov. 7. The second — offering discounts on electronics like TVs, smartphones and computers, as well as apparel and accessories — kicked off on Walmart.com on Nov. 11 and in locations on Nov. 14. Lastly, the third event, which marks down a range of items including gifts and seasonal decor, will take place digitally on Nov. 25 and at outposts on Nov. 27, or Black Friday itself.